The Sussex Downs Murder by John Bude
Thanks to my lovely local library I’ve been able to indulge in a number of the very wonderful British Library Crime Classics series, and they’re recently got in a number of new titles, of which this is one. John Bude has been one of the successes of the series, and I previously read and enjoyed his earlier titles, “The Lake District Murder” and “The Cornish Coast Murder” I was very keen to start one set in Sussex (obviously topographical plots are a theme in his books!)
“The Sussex Downs Murder” features Inspector Meredith, who also did the sleuthing in the Lake District. He’s been transferred south, along with his wife and brainy son, and is applying his solid, reliable detecting qualities to local cases – and the murder that turns up here is a strange one!
Brothers John and William Rother live together in a farm in Sussex, along with William’s wife Janet. All seems idyllic until one day John sets off on a trip to Harlech for a holiday – but never arrives. Instead, his car is found abandoned not far away; there are blood stains and signs of an attack; and then bones are discovered nearby and it seems that there is a murder to investigate. But who is the major suspect; both William and Janet come under scrutiny, as the latter was seen to be getting a little too friendly with her brother-in-law. Was William jealous or had Janet had enough of the intentions of John? However, what appears to be a straightforward case is anything but, and it takes all of Meredith’s ingenuity to get to the bottom of things.
TSDM was another wonderful read from the British Library collection, and they really should be applauded for saving these works from obscurity. Meredith is an appealing character, persistent and methodical, and would be a very reassuring detective to have around in a crisis. And the plot’s a clever and inventive one, though I have to confess up front that I got the major twist (and it is a major twist) very early on in the book. Bude plays fair with his readers, and if you have a reasonable amount of experience with murder mysteries I think you’re in with a fair chance of working out the solution!
I reckon, Mr. Barnet, that you should let your readers know just as much as the police know. That’s only fair. And one up to the reader who can outstrip the police and make an early arrest. Not guess-work, mark you, but a certainty based on proven facts. That’s only fair to us because we can’t arrest a chap because we think he’s guilty.
But this didn’t spoil my enjoyment of reading the book at all, and there’s great pleasure to be got from the setting, the plotting and watching Meredith reach his conclusions. Bude adds a nice little extra element in the form of Aldous Barnet, an author friend of William Rother’s, who observes the case with a somewhat professional interest. Bude is not averse to letting his sleuth have a little dig or two at the more fanciful fictional detectives; Meredith eschews gimmicks and goes for solid, workmanlike detection, and certainly succeeds here in tracking down the solution.
So another lovely find from the British Library Crime Collection – very much my go-to place if I want a comfy, classic, non-gory murder mystery.